Posted September 26th, 2018.
After filing a lawsuit Wednesday, Pittsylvania County joined hundreds of other localities pursuing monetary reparations for the opioid epidemic’s economic and emotional toll on the community.
Filed in the Pittsylvania County Circuit Court, the civil suit named more than 20 companies involved in the manufacturing, distributing or pharmacy benefit managing of prescription opioids. OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, major distributor McKesson and pharmaceutical company CVS Health were among the many companies listed.
According to the lawsuit, the county is suing for $50 million in compensation for the increase in local revenue spent on healthcare, emergency medical services, social services, addiction-related services, law enforcement and other areas to address the ramifications of the opioid epidemic.
“Nearly every aspect of Pittsylvania County’s budget has been significantly and negatively impacted by this defendant-made epidemic,” stated the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges the county had to pay for a public nuisance created by the companies’ negligence. It states that the companies conspired to produce, market and sell the products for the highest profit without properly warning the public about the health risks associated with the drugs.
The lawsuit also calls for another $350,000 per defendent as punitive damages for a list of charges including negligence, fraud and violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
The suit specifically calls attention to the rise of neonatal abstinence syndrome in Pittsylvania County, which occurred at a per-capita rate of 10.7 per 100,000 people in the county in 2016 compared to 6.7 at the state level. It also points to the opioid epidemic as part of the reason for the county’s overcrowded jail cells, stating many are filled with inmates caught on “opioid-related criminal activity.”
The annual cost of providing foster care and child-placement services has increased by 66 percent in the county since 2016 due to the number of households affected by opioid addiction, according to the lawsuit.
In a statement, Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Warren said, “From the costs of law enforcement to the costs of child placement services that are necessary when opioid addiction tears our local families apart, the County has been responsible for footing the bill for this preventable addiction epidemic. We owe it to our residents to do everything we can to recover some of the costs the County has been forced to pay while large pharmaceutical companies have gotten rich pushing addictive drugs to our citizens.”
Pittsylvania County is being represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, Kaufman & Canoles, P.C. and Cicala Law Firm PLLC.
In the statement, Kevin H. Sharp of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP said, “We are pleased to represent Pittsylvania County as it seeks to hold the defendants accountable for their reprehensible actions and recover the funds the County has spent to address the impact of the opioid crisis. Pittsylvania County’s citizens deserve justice for the harms inflicted upon them by the defendants and our respective firms are proud to take on this fight on their behalf.”